Although the practice of mindfulness and meditation are only recently advocated in western psychology, they have been trusted, effective treatments in eastern traditions for hundreds of years.
If you are asking yourself: “what is mindfulness?” the textbook defines it as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. While being a little vague, it gives us a good starting point to evaluate why mindfulness is a key component of recovery.
Being actively engaged in substance abuse or addiction means checking out frequently; seeking escape from stress, worry and fear by altering reality and disrupting awareness. The state of clear consciousness is like an under-developed muscle to an addict, resulting in the tendency to navigate life by impulse ideas and emotional responses.
Mindfulness in a frantic and busy world can be understood as a state of active, open attention on the present.
When practicing mindfulness, observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, noticing how they come and go of their own accord. Work at not quantifying these as being either good or bad; recognize you are not your thoughts. This is a practice of staying present in the moment without needing to escape, letting go of the struggle we have with mind and spirit.
Thoughts and emotions can come and go so frequently and sometimes suddenly, and alcoholics and addicts are often governed by unpredictable patterns of response. Generating a healthy awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings and responses promotes the ability to control reactions and choices.
The question of what is mindfulness in recovery can be answered by acknowledging the difference between the calamity of addiction and the serenity found through sobriety.
People find practicing mindfulness helpful in managing everyday life and emotional situations where checking out and escaping reality only confounded problems. Our awareness allows a clear understanding about what is happening in and around us in the present moment.
We can then respond to challenge consciously and skilfully, and it promotes a way of being that is freer, and less imposed on to have things be a particular way.
In sobriety we learn to be flexible, accept the comings and goings of our thoughts and feelings as we would the tides or cloudscapes- sometimes they are darker and more troubling, and other times they are calm and beautiful. By practicing a conscious mindfulness, we take back the power drugs and alcohol had and begin to choose with greater strength who we want to be.